#29 Mexico Sin (Without) Cerveza

Updates on the coronavirus flood the world news every single day.  We are briefed on rising case numbers, the potential new symptoms, work of diligent scientists on  possible vaccines or treatments, current recommendations from the CDC and specific guidelines for slowly, safely reopening countries, states and individual cities.  These are often followed by a wonderful, uplifting story or twenty of people who have gone the extra mile, reached out a hand, figuratively of course, or eased the fears of their fellow human beings in this time of uncertainty.  However, there are also the nonsensical and possibly humorous stories that slip in daily through non-mainstream news sources.

Advertisement from the Corona beer distribution company. I’d like to take my own picture of Corona but alas that is impossible due to the current state of the cerveza situation.

One such story is the connection between Corona beer and the coronavirus.  This phoney information resulted from February news reports stating that Corona beer sales had decreased.  While sales probably did decrease the so-called news and the timing of its release lead to people actually google search, “beer virus”.  By early March 38% of Americans surveyed said they would not for any reason purchase Corona beer.  Memes went wild.  I sincerely hope that no one actually believes there is even a remote relationship between the two.  After all, the thought of Corona beer should bring forth images of rolling waves and a lovely couple enjoying a cool beverage under swaying palm trees along a pristine stretch of a beach in Mexico.  Corona has long been associated with the country of Mexico as has the delight of enjoying a cold cerveza.  That’s where this nonsensical and almost humorous story begins.

At the beginning of April Corona beer and its fellow cerveza amigos fell victim to COVID 19 when the Mexican government ordered the closure of all nonessential businesses to slow the spread of the virus.  Groupo Modelo, brewer of this Corona along with other production companies in the country were asked to “shut down”.  Beer distribution was deemed nonessential.  I beg to differ but was not asked at the time by the government for my opinion.  If I had, this might be a whole different story.

The Mexico/Beer relationship is long standing.  Mexicans really enjoy their cold cerveza.  As a matter of fact, limited research informed me that while residents of this lovely country generally drink about a quart of wine over the course of an entire year, those same citizens down eighteen gallons of the delicious, cool Mexican products of Tecate, Corona, Pacifico, Indio, Modelo, Dos Equis and the like during those same 365 days.  The announcement of the suspension of beer production smacked this country like a stick to a pinata.  Luckily, in late March stores were stockpiled with the booze of choice due to upcoming Samanta Santa celebrations.  With large gatherings canceled it took weeks to notice beer production had actually ceased.  That however did not stop people from participating in beer panic buying.  Upon hearing of the potential shortage, my friendly neighbor from Oklahoma rushed into the local tienda and purchased six cases for his…“party of one”.  Focused more on the numbers rising in the state of New York I was unaware of the entire situation until I entered the nearest grocery store, Santovalle.  Three men eased to the checkout with shopping carts filled solely with “liquid gold”.  At the time I simply wondered where the party was being held.  Later the same day I was informed by a neighbor who literally jumped into his car and sped off that beer sales would end at 6:00 pm.  It was 5:45, I was at least a ten minute walk from home, I’d never make it.  I’d just have to rely on the generosity of my fellow San Carlosians for any unplanned cerveza cravings.

Our cerveza stock as of today.

Boy was I happy to learn the aforementioned time frame was not 100% accurate.  There was a rush on beer that evening but when I arrived at Santovalle the following day I found the walk-in beer room, yes, beer room, stocked just fine.  But I told myself to heed the warning and do a little hoarding of my own.  So alongside the avocados, vinegar, bleach and jalapenos I nestled in two cases of beer into the cart.  Mike rolled his eyes as I celebrated my treasure trove. 

Two weeks passed and the suds seemed to remain plentiful.  Late April brought another story.  Stores were not restocked and coolers began to empty.  Fearing being “that person” I picked up an unnecessary 6-pack or two whenever I entered the store.  I didn’t want to “panic buy” but I did want to be prepared for the long haul.  Guidelines changed, beer could now only be purchased alongside $20 of other products.  The day the potential of life without beer really hit me was when I ventured to Walmart in Guaymas for dog food.  There I passed a beer cooler completely empty with the exception of two lonely six packs of Old Milwaukee.  “Tastes as great as its name,” not necessarily.  Apparently Mexicans draw the line at the Wisconsin (It Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This) claimed brew.  Eventually, a lone man sheepishly gathered the dozen cans of beer and headed toward the checkout.  Other bystanders, including myself, immediately regretted our decision not to jump at the chance we’d been given.

It was really gone.  No cerveza in Mexico…well at least not near my home.  No cold ones, no ales, no lagers, no ambers, no brewskis, nada.  We all believed that the number one beverage of Mexico would soon find its way home.  But we were wrong.  A month later, no cerveza.  It was now evident that toilet paper troubles of the United States were equal to the cerveza complications in Mexico.  

Before you begin to pity my situation down here as I soak in the sun while staring at the officially closed beaches with wanton desire…there are several cerveza celebrations to report.  The locally owned restaurant, Marvida Tap Room and Kitchen, offers growlers of craft beer to go.  It took one week for the business to run out of growlers so now it’s just BYOC, bring your own container, and they will fill it for you.  Only in Mexico, right?  Craft beers are selling on Amazon Mexico for about $40 for a 24-pack.  An interesting prospect perhaps.  Stockpiling friends are sharing their bounty.  Just this week we were gifted an 8-pack of Pacifico from our fabulous buddy from Oklahoma.  Thank goodness for amigos! 

The very best celebration came in the form of a lottery.  Last week I noticed a very long line of what appeared to be construction workers wrapped around the OXXO (well known convenience stores in Mexico) at 7:45 am.  I asked a friend what was going on to which I was told there was a “beer lottery” being held at several OXXOs.  Just get a ticket, get in line and cross fingers the beer didn’t run out before ticket holders made it inside.  While supplies lasted, those with “golden tickets” would be allowed to purchase two cases of cerveza. 

I did not get in line but did drive by three times to witness the pre celebration excitement.  As the line of voucher holders grew, faces appeared hopeful.  As I rounded the corner for the third time a truck of jovial men pulled up next to me and noticed I was taking a picture of the “event”.  The driver flashed a giant smile, raised his arms in the air and shouted, “Cerveza!”  I gave him a giant thumbs up, a “buena suerte” for good luck and drove away hoping the gentleman and his amigos would be prosperous in their pursuit.  Rumor has it OXXO was out of beer in less than 90 minutes.

The country of Mexico has released a 3 Stage plan for reopening the country.  We are currently in the pre opening stage in which the government is determining municipalities that are least likely to spread the virus.  Following that complete determination slow opening phases will begin in certain locations.  At the end of May, companies will train employees in new protocols.  Then on June 1st what were deemed as nonessential businesses will begin to function again by region.  Now we can only pin our hopes on the possibility that the government deems cerveza essential.  Listen carefully because there is a chance you’ll hear an explosion of jubiloso from the residents of Mexico as the calendar page turns.  

May 20, 2020

“You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer or an airline.  It helps if you have some sort of football team, or some nuclear weapon, but the very least you need beer.”

– Frank Zappa, Musician

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